Extraordinary president, ordinary presidency: New book evaluates the achievements of the Trump administration
President Trump’s refusal to play the Washington game pleases his base but limits his ability to fulfil his campaign promises. It’s just one of the many reasons this extraordinary president is delivering a very ordinary presidency, according to a new book from Keele University US politics expert Dr Jon Herbert.
The Ordinary Presidency of Donald J. Trump is one of the first rigorous studies of the 45th president. The authors, including Dr Trevor McCrisken from the University of Warwick and Dr Andrew Wroe from the University of Kent, explore Trump’s election and track record since his inauguration and weigh his achievements both against those of his predecessors in office and against his own hyperbolic claims.
Dr Herbert said: “We’re certainly not claiming that Donald Trump is an ordinary individual or an ordinary President. He is without doubt an extraordinary individual who has taken a very unorthodox, unconventional approach to being President.
“What we are arguing is that the outcomes, the accomplishments of his presidency are much more limited - much more ordinary - than he suggests that they are.”
The book tests the claims made by the President himself, his supporters and even many political enemies, that the administration has implemented a ground-breaking domestic programme and a radical ‘America First’ foreign policy. It finds that in fact President Trump has not actually achieved very much of his agenda in areas such as immigration, and that the few domestic policy achievements he can lay claim to, such as the 2017 tax reform, are largely conventional Republican positions.
Looking beyond the bluster of Trump’s rhetoric on the international stage, the authors argue that his foreign policy reflects conventional ideas about the relationship of the US to the world, a ‘peace through strength’ strategy that has been a staple of modern Republican presidencies.
Dr McCrisken explains: “Trump believes in using perceived strength as leverage over international players, but like most presidents before him he has struggled to produce what he would call 'wins'.
“Even the extraordinary spectacle of the US president meeting North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has to date delivered unremarkable results. Other US presidents have tried to address the nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula but like Trump have found themselves frustrated each time."
As President, Trump has had very limited success in getting legislation through Congress, even though the Republicans controlled both houses until the mid-term elections. His attempts to govern through executive orders have often been blocked by the courts. Why has the forceful, tub-thumping outsider experienced such difficulty? Dr Herbert, Dr McCrisken and Dr Wroe argue that while one factor is the US constitution itself, which is deliberately set up to constrain charismatic and potentially autocratic leaders, another significant factor is the President himself.
Dr Wroe comments: “Trump is absolutely incompetent and ineffectual at being a president, with none of the skills needed. He can’t take advice, doesn’t trust experts and has no idea how to make the presidency work for him. He sees the presidency as a gameshow where you need to be seen to be winning and everything is funnelled through his focus on himself.”
In a challenge to conventional wisdom, the authors conclude that the Trump presidency is proving quite ordinary in its meagre accomplishments and outcomes.